EXCLUSIVE: Thousands of council workers face pay cut or drastic changes to working conditions

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Thousands of county council staff are facing either an across-the-board pay cut or drastic changes to their working conditions as the cash-strapped authority looks to make further savings in the year ahead.

Staff have been told they may face an average 3.6 per cent pay cut for all staff from next April which may be graduated according to salary.

Alternatively, they are faced with sweeping changes to their working conditions, the most controversial of which is likely to include “significant” reductions in sick pay, both during the first week of absence and in the longer term.

The move would mean county council staff would not be paid for a certain amount of days when they are off sick while long term sickness policies would see the period over which employees are paid being cut.

In addition, incremental pay rises may not be paid every year and would be linked to local affordability while pay awards would be negotiated locally rather than through nationally agreed union settlements as happens at present.

County council chiefs are also proposing the controversial introduction of mandatory unpaid leave at certain times of the year when the council closes the majority of services.

This might mean, for example, council workers being told they are to take Christmas Eve off, but not being paid for it.

It is understood that unless either a pay cut or the working conditions are changed, the council would be forced to make 300 full and part-time staff redundant over and above the number - as yet unconfirmed - who are expected to go as part of further savings.

This is because County Hall is having to make £4m of cuts to employment costs every year for the next three years.

A spokesman for Northamptonshire County Council said: “The scale of the financial challenges facing public sector organisations such as the council are so significant that we are having to look at wider employment costs of our workforce. This will not be welcomed by anyone.

“Over the last few years the council has seen significant reductions in the number of employees so much so that it is felt many services are now stretched to capacity.

“This means we are now left with no option but to look at employment costs rather than even more redundancies than currently forecast. The council recognises the commitment all our employees show and these proposals are in no way a reflection of the significant achievements they make everyday.

“However we all have no option but to address the financial realities that face the council and therefore have very reluctantly started to consult on these proposals.”

News of the proposals comes as the Conservative administration came under fire once again for announcing another Tory councillor would be joining the cabinet on a £20,645 salary.

The Chron revealed last night that Catherine Boardman would be joining the top table with a newly created portfolio in charge of children’s social services.

A consulation process has begun with the unions which will run unti December and, subject to approval, one or other of the proposals would be included in the budget proposals to go before the council early next year.